Mental health nurses uniquely placed to help insure Australia against the impacts of mental ill-health

Tuesday 15 June 2021


A recent report by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has shone a spotlight on the adverse effects of mental ill-health on countries’ social and economic stability. With the state of Victoria having gone through another lockdown, the ACMHN believes it is finally time to pay heed to the crucial role mental health nurses could play in propping up Australia’s struggling mental health care services.


The OECD report found many countries were struggling to deliver efficient mental health care, with individuals and through them social and economic systems bearing the brunt.


Mental health nurses (MHNs) could play an important role in meeting the demand for mental health care in Australia, but government initiatives so far have given too little attention to the profession.


“MHNs have been calling for opportunities to be more heavily involved in initiatives developed so far in response to the need to expand and improve mental health care in Australia against the backdrop of COVID-19. So far, these calls have been largely ignored,” ACMHN President Professor Mike Hazelton said.


The Australian Department of Health estimates the annual costs of the productivity losses attributable to mental illness range from $10 to $15 billion. A cost that stronger involvement of MHNs could help reduce.


“The ACMHN believes MHNs could play a central role in rebuilding Australia's system of mental health care. If the OECD is correct, this would make an important contribution to not only the mental health of Australians but also in responding to the productivity losses associated with poor mental health.”


Demand for mental health services in Australia is likely to only rise, with Victoria having endured another lockdown in recent weeks.


“The lockdown in Victoria, its impact on the livelihood of people and business coupled with the winding down of support initiatives such as JobKeeper, are all having adverse effects on individuals, families, and the community. Among numerous implications here we can expect ongoing increases in the demand for mental health services in regional and remote locations being especially heavily affected.”


Professor Hazelton said the OECD report strongly highlighted the wicked problem of how to get the best out of already severely under-resourced and understaffed mental health services.


“The report comes at an important time with governments, health officials, and health professionals concerned about the rise in demand for mental health care due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both here in Australia and internationally.”


For further comment, please contact ACMHN President, Dr Mike Hazelton on 0448 121 012 or at president@acmhn.org


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